Cubs unable to take charge in wild ninth
Golden opportunity to negate Stubbs' big day goes unused
CHICAGO -- The Cubs' offensive struggles this year have become so puzzling that all manager Lou Piniella can do is shrug.
"I don't even want to talk about it anymore, truthfully," Piniella said after a 4-3 loss to the National League Central-leading Reds on Saturday. "No sense rehashing what could've been, whatever. It's hard, it's frustrating, is what it is. That's what it is, it's frustrating."
Drew Stubbs doubled and scored in the third, hit a tie-breaking leadoff homer in the eighth, and added an RBI single in the ninth to lift the Reds to victory over the Cubs, who lost for the ninth time in their past 10 games.
"It's such a bad taste in your mouth when you play like this -- you want to play good baseball," Chicago's Derrek Lee said. "Even if we lose and play good baseball, you can deal with that. We're just not playing the way we should be playing."
The Cubs threatened in the ninth as they loaded the bases with one out on three walks against Francisco Cordero. Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch in the left shoulder to force in a run. But Nick Masset replaced Cordero and struck out Lee, then walked Aramis Ramirez to force in another run, and struck out Marlon Byrd to end the game.
"I didn't have a good at-bat," Lee said of the ninth. "Bases loaded, one out, I'm expected to hit something in the gap and I strike out. That's the disappointing part is when you know what you're capable of doing and it's just not happening."
Randy Wells (5-10) took the loss, his third in a row. He's now given up three or less runs in seven of his past nine starts. But there's no offense to back him up.
"You can't really change your approach based on what kind of run support you're getting or not," Wells said. "Even if you have a 15-0 lead, you're still going out there trying to get quick outs and have us score more. It's the same thing -- just be aggressive, throw strikes."
With the game tied at 1 in the Reds' eighth, Stubbs led off with his 14th home run off a 1-0 pitch from Wells, dropping it into the left-field bleachers. Ramon Hernandez singled and Chris Heisey walked, chasing Wells. Justin Berg got Brandon Phillips to ground into a double play but gave up an RBI single to Paul Janish.
"I'm more mad about the third inning than the eighth," Wells said. "I was trying to sneak a pitch by a guy [Stubbs] that didn't need to be snuck by [in the third]. It was pretty clear: throw a slider there and you give yourself a better shot than trying to sneak a fastball."
Stubbs snapped an 0-for-11 skid with a double in the third. He entered the game 1-for-37 and had not started the past five games. But he thrives at Wrigley Field, hitting three home runs here on July 4.
"Who would figure Stubbs was our offensive hero today?" Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "[He's a] guy who's been struggling. By the time you have this game figured out, something happens that lets you know it's not figured out."
After Stubbs doubled, he scored on Hernandez's single. The Cubs tied it in their half of the third as Kosuke doubled down the right-field line and moved up on Castro's single before scoring on Lee's sacrifice fly to tie the game.
Chicago now has played 39 one-run games, most in the Majors, and has gone 13-26 in those games. The 26 losses also are most in baseball. Last year, the Cubs played 38 one-run games and were 16-22.
"It's disappointing," Lee said of the lost season. "We've played way below our expectations. In no way, shape or form did we think we'd be sitting in this position now. It's extremely disappointing."
And the Reds?
"They're doing what it takes," Lee said. "They're not swinging the bats great but they're getting the hit when they need it. They scored a few runs late and added on and it's winning baseball."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.